Although sources differ in the specific foods that lower cholesterol, most agree that foods with little saturated and trans fat help control cholesterol. Foods fortified with plant sterols also help reduce cholesterol.
Among the top three cholesterol-lowering foods are soy, salmon and beans. Eating soy instead of consuming the saturated fats in meat and cheese is known to improve heart health. Beans are high in soluble fiber, which is known to lower cholesterol. A single cup of beans a day can lower cholesterol by as much as 10 percent in six weeks. Kidney beans, chickpeas, black, navy and pinto beans are among the most beneficial in this regard. Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish such as salmon, white albacore tuna and anchovies lowers LDL cholesterol and raises HDL cholesterol, which helps maintain a healthy balance between types.
Avocados, garlic, spinach and margarine are also helpful for keeping down bad cholesterol. Garlic has been shown to not only lower cholesterol by keeping cholesterol particles from sticking to arteries, but also to lower blood pressure and prevent blood clots. Various margarine brands, such as Benecol and Take Control, are made with cholesterol-lowering plant sterols.
Nuts, tea and chocolate are helpful for the specific type of fatty acid they contain. Walnuts, almonds and cashews contain the monounsaturated fats that promote heart health. Tea contains antioxidants, as does dark chocolate, and flavonoids, which help prevent the formation of plaque in arteries.